October 23, 2011

Carnes slowly gaining experience at quarterback

MINNEAPOLIS - He was only on the field for a total of two drives of mop-up duty, but Brion Carnes was happy to take what he could get on Saturday.

The redshirt freshman quarterback relieved Taylor Martinez to begin the fourth quarter of Nebraska's 41-14 blowout of Minnesota. He threw just one pass in his nine plays in the game, completing a 7-yard toss to freshman receiver Jamal Turner on a 3rd-and-16 play.

The Huskers punted on his first drive, which obviously consisted mostly of running plays to wind down the clock, and the game ended after three plays of his second drive. The offense did achieve two first downs with Carnes under center, but it was more about the experience than stats for the Bradenton, Fla., native.

He's only seen the field in three games this season, completing his only two passes, so he knows he needs to make the most of every snap he takes this season.

"I just have confidence in myself," Carnes said. "I know what I'm capable of, the coaches know what I'm capable of, and that's why they have me at No. 2 right now. If anything was to go down with Taylor, I'd be prepared and I'd be ready to go.

"Every opportunity I get to get on the field, I try to make it the best. Just go out there and relax and have fun, and that's what I did."

While his playing time has been limited, primarily because Nebraska hasn't had many big second half leads, Carnes said his reps in practice have increased quite a bit since the start of the Big Ten Conference season.

Martinez still gets the majority of work in practice, but it's clear the coaching staff wants Carnes to be as prepared as possible should Martinez have to miss any time due to injury as the year rolls along.

After the Huskers took a 34-0 lead into halftime on Saturday, the plan was to get Carnes in the game after adding at least another touchdown or two to the lead in the second half. Because the offense failed to capitalize at times in the third quarter, Carnes wasn't able to get in until the start of the fourth.

"The third quarter didn't play out quite the way we wanted it to play out," head coach Bo Pelini said. "But you know, what are you gonna do? I thought Brion got some good snaps, and we'll continue to get him in there as we can."

Following his breakout performance in the spring game, there was some thought among the fan base that Carnes could contend with Martinez for the starting job this season. However, Pelini said the gap between Martinez and Carnes was fairly significant at this point, thus cementing Martinez's spot as the starter.

Even so, the coaching staff would ideally still like to get Carnes as much work as possible. That's why not being able to get him in the game earlier on Saturday was one of the few frustrating points of an otherwise solid win.

"I'm confident in him," offensive coordinator Tim Beck. "Obviously when he was in we didn't want to be in a situation where we were trying to run up the score. We were being simple with what he was doing. We were hoping to get him in earlier, but we just didn't do a very good job in our first couple possessions in the second half."

As the Huskers go through the grind of the second half of the season, it's hard to say whether there will be many more chances for Carnes to see the field unless Martinez were to miss time with an injury.

With only one year separating him and Martinez, Carnes will likely have to continue to battle for playing time well after this season and the next two years to come. It's certainly a tough position for a former four-star recruit, but Carnes has maintained a positive attitude throughout.

Just as it is with any backup, Carnes knows he's only one play away from being Nebraska's next starting quarterback.

"When my time comes, I'm going to be ready," Carnes said. "I just have to stay focused and confident and just have fun."

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